Tradition 4

Short Form:

“Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.”

Long Form:

“With respect to its own affairs, each A.A. group should be responsible to no other authority than its own conscience. But when its plans concern the welfare of neighboring groups also, those groups ought to be consulted. And no group, regional committee, or individual should ever take any action that might greatly affect A.A. as a whole without conferring with the trustees of the General Service Board. On such issues our common welfare is paramount.”


Overriding Idea of T4:
Our Decisions Affect Others

Reading Assignment:
12&12: Pgs. 146-149


From the Foreword of the 12 & 12:  “A.A.’s Twelve Traditions apply to the life of the Fellowship itself. They outline the means by which A.A. maintains its unity and relates itself to the world about it, the way it lives and grows.”



For too long, I thought I was autonomous in my own right; this is also called being self-centered or selfish, with “self-will run riot.” This Tradition helps me understand that I cannot take any actions harmful to others without dire consequences to myself. I learned that nothing was really good unless other people also were considered. If I don’t seek the advice and help of others in matters affecting them, then I again become God in my own life, the exact nature of my wrongs.

The one word that characterizes the fourth tradition is the word “decisions.” This tradition teaches me how to make decisions and maintain good relationships with God and you at the same time. The traditions show us how to get along with each other. The second half of the fourth tradition teaches me to consult others when I make decisions that affect them.

I am not to be a dictator in making decisions that affect other people’s lives (or the community) as I did when I was drinking. I need help from others, especially in matters affecting them. My goal is unanimity. <I repeat> If I don’t seek the advice and help of others in matters affecting them, then I again become God in my own life, the exact nature of my wrongs.

Step-Tradition Parallel

If I don’t seek the advice and help of others in matters affecting them, then I again become God in my own life, the exact nature of my wrongs. The steps help to restore my relationship with God (through inventory among other things) and the traditions show me how to get along with God (and others). I was God in my own life. I was a dictator. With others, I was just the opposite. I sought their approval. The fourth tradition solves this dilemma: I seek to be one with God and to be one with others about matters affecting them. There are certain things that must be done alone with God, such as writing inventory. Writing inventory is an autonomous function.  Interesting parallel.

(Excerpts from the text above come from the Traditions Study developed by the Unity Insures Recovery Through Service A.A. Group, Los Angeles, CA.)

Tradition Illustrated



As it states at the top of this page, the 12 Traditions were created to help each A.A. group maintain unity and relate better to the world about us.  With that in mind, they have been widely used in helping us learn how to be in better relationships with everyone in our life.  Below is a snapshot inventory you can take to see how well you are honoring the spiritual principle found in this Tradition (in and out of the rooms of A.A.).

(The foundation of this inventory is from the A.A. Tradition’s Checklist first published in the A.A. Grapevine)

  1. Do I insist that there are only a few right ways of doing things in AA?
  2. Does my group always consider the welfare of the rest of AA? Of nearby groups? Of Loners in Alaska? Of Internationalists miles from port? Of a group in Rome or El Salvador?
  3. Do I put down other members’ behavior when it is different from mine, or do I learn from it?
  4. Do I always bear in mind that, to those outsiders who know I am in AA, I may to some extent represent our entire beloved Fellowship?
  5. Am I willing to help a newcomer go to any lengths—his lengths, not mine—to stay sober?
  6. Do I share my knowledge of AA tools with other members who may not have heard of them?
  7. What “questions” could we ask ourselves before we make a decision to use our autonomy?
  8. Does autonomy excuse or justify improper behavior?